Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A slice of Asia and back to basics weekend










Assuming you've already studied the photos above, I imagine you are wondering where this lucky family disappeared to at the weekend. To China? India? Some other exotic part of the world? Well the answer would be: the zoo, of course.

Since we are not going away this summer, we are trying to soak up some exotic experiences locally.  On Saturday this involved our usual anchor of the week, the zoo, and afterwards dinner at a Chinese restaurant. To start with the former: the more we frequent the zoo, the more we enjoy it. Visiting once in a while means running around like a headless chicken in order to see as much as possible in one day. Visiting every week means taking time out to enjoy one large corner at our leisure without feeling guilty over not having seen the rest. On Saturday we were in the mood for a bit of China -  don't ask me where that came from (I don't know) -  and so we spent the afternoon in the cool, shadowy Chinese garden at the zoo, enjoying the beautiful flowers, giant Koi Carps and a small but fine specimen of Chinese architecture. Funnily enough, it was quite idyllic. Highlight of the afternoon was of course seeing the elephants: a baby one with its big sister and mother. Daughter S wanted nothing more than to have Baby Elephant sitting on her lap. Or living in her bedroom. Anyhow. The two bottoms are the sisters, in case you are interested.

Needless to say, all that lounging about made us hungry, and so we took being in Asia to the next level by going to a Chinese restaurant in Rotterdam. I cannot tell you when we last went to a Chinese restaurant, but I suspect it's around eight years ago. The interior was just as I remembered a Chinese restaurant to be: clean, spacious and air-conditioned, with impeccably set tables. The same went for the hospitality: friendly, inviting and helpful. What M and I had both forgotten, however, was... portion size. I mean, my goodness - what is that all about? Mounds of food (we'd only ordered for two people!) was put in front of us in a row as long as the Chinese Wall; half of which, much to our embarrassment, remained uneaten. I humbly apologised to the waitress who smilingly said that never mind, this happens all the time, no one finishes their order, so don't worry, not even in the slightest, and when son S said "but won't the cook be angry?" she burst into fits of giggles. This still left me feeling slightly awkward, I mean: do they throw that food out or do they dish it all up again? I shudder to think. What I had also forgotten was the excessive amount of meat, and  the vegetables drenched in corn starch sauces - yikes, I've really outgrown that stuff. After paying ninety euros - yes, you read that right, and as you know, I have complained about money spent on eating out before - we left the restaurant feeling a little ashamed. Son S looked at me, squeezed my hand and said, "that was wonderful, wasn't it mama, are we going there again next week?"

Sunday was spent going back to basics by eating simple, wholesome food (after the previous evening's excessiveness, we were almost ready to become as frugal and austere as Spartans). For dinner we ate carrot soup (made the same way as broccoli soup except with carrots and some freshly grated ginger), followed by a simple salad with lightly battered fried fish. For dessert we had  homemade ice lollies. In case you are interested in making them yourself, here is the recipe.


Strawberry Ice Lollies
adapted from It's All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow

1 punnet of strawberries, rinsed and hulled
100ml double cream or coconut cream if you are lactose intolerant
2 tablespoons maple syrup
8 ice lolly moulds

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor
  • pulse until completely smooth
  • pour into moulds and pop into the freezer






24 comments:

  1. Oh it is ages since I went to the zoo. I suppose I'll have to wait until I have grandchildren now.

    I'm looking forward to a bit of back to basics when my campers come home. I am over indulging and even, I am ashamed to say, throwing food away because I have bought more than Tom and I can eat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I've been enjoying those reads about you leading the good life whilst the campers are away :-)

      We throw away food over here too and it always makes me feel bad. Hence I work hard at trying to get the portions right - I wish restaurants would do the same.

      Delete
  2. Gosh, that was an expensive meal!! The visit to the zoo sounds like great fun though and I love the Chinese lantern. xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh my.
    Flashback to our last visit at a chinese restaurant :-)
    I think it's universal, those huge portions !
    Here in Belgium as well... I always have to restrain myself from demanding a doggy bag (still not a common practice here in Europe), because I find it such a waste of food, all those leftovers...
    Even if that doggy bag would just be given to our chickens, then at least I would know it did have a good use and didn't end up in the bin..

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Chinese garden looks lovely, I would love to stroll through it. The ice lollies sound delicious. I may have a go at making some thank you for posting x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the zoo we go to is so beautifully designed and maintained. The ice lollies are not as sweet as ones from the shop are, but thankfully the kids love them that way and so do M and I.

      Delete
  5. I'm not a fan of Chinese food. It makes me feel poorly. I like the lollies very much. I my have a go at them.
    Leanne xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ice lollies come highly recommended. They are wonderful made with very ripe mango too. They're probably our favourite.

      Delete
  6. I am not a fan of Chinese food either - but I do of course only know the westernised version of Chinese cuisine. I tend to ask for the food to be packed up to eat at a later stage.
    My grandpa had a season ticket to the zoo and visited at least once a week. I would, too, if there was a zoo in Glasgow. Cx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I'm sure the westernised version is very different to the real deal. Funnily enough, a Chinese pupil told me that if you were to ask for a fortune cookie in China they wouldn't know what you were talking about!

      Delete
  7. I am a big fan of Chinese food but only certain dishes particularly duck pancakes with oyster sauce I could eat them till the cows come home. I can't remember the last time I went to a zoo but it sounds like you had an enjoyable time. I prefer simple food myself, food that is too rich does not sit well with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I'm the same way. I like Peking duck and wantons. And I definitely have a preference for simple food.

      Delete
  8. What a beautiful interlude you had at the zoo - it's amazing how such a place can transport you to another world!
    I so agree re the Chinese food - I will have it and think, yep, that's it for another year. And it is crazy about the portion sizes, what are they thinking?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it really did transport us elsewhere - so much fun!

      Delete
  9. I almost always find eating out such a waste of money, disappointing expensive food is so frustrating. I also find the threat of gluten in things (especially chinese food) puts me off even wanting to go out. simple wholesome food at home sounds perfect. love the loliies, we've been making lots of simple icecreams and frozen yoghurts, they are such a delicious treat x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally agree - I often regret it. I eat out for the convenience and the ambiance, but once I get the bill I wonder if it was really worth it.

      Delete
  10. Funnily enough I have had a recent hankering after a zoo visit. I was a bit appalled at the cost of a ticket to Regent's Park Zoo - over £20 - more if you wanted to avoid the lengthy queues!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The zoo is expensive here too. Unless, of course, you have a year round family ticket as we do - then you pay next to nothing. Without it, a visit would cost the four of us 75 euro, whereas the membership costs us 189 euros per year. For that money we can sit and watch the monkeys 365 days per year so that's an incredibly good deal.

      Delete
  11. Your children are so cute, I love that last photo. I enjoy visiting the zoo but I like the botanic gardens even more, especially the Japanese garden. I love places like that, they're just so peaceful and relaxing. We rarely eat out, so our kids see it as a huge treat when we do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I love the botanic gardens, especially the serenity of those places. Thanks for the compliment about my children - I personally love the photo at the top too. They have such fun together and that's worth the world to me.

      Delete
  12. Your zoo looks like a wonderful place to spend the day and how wonderful that you have one nearby and a season ticket! I never eat out these days food preservatives make me really ill :(. Food waste is a huge problem the world over, we always box up our leftovers and put them in the fridge. One lunch a week is always a hotchpotch of leftovers to eat up, the children love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right you are about those leftovers. And preservatives don't sit well with me either. I prefer good fresh food from home and knowing exactly what's gone into it.

      Delete

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit. I love reading your comments so please feel free to leave one (or more, if the mood so takes you) in English and/or in Dutch.